Organic, All-Natural, Low-Fat, and other food labels

Organic, All-Natural, Low-Fat, and other food labels

This awesome guest post was written by Aamar Khwaja, Inventor of modgarden. Aamar is a health advocate and on a mission to see everyone eat healthily!

When you head to the supermarket this week, take a good look at the packaging. Today, most corporations hire lawyers to carefully craft words and sentences that give the illusion of a product being natural, pure, wholesome, or healthy. Because consumers are becoming more and more concerned about eating healthy, companies are using the simple power of language to make health claims and entice customers to buy the product. Many want you to believe that their product is healthier than other options in the grocery aisle. However, buyer beware—many companies use deceptive labeling and legal loopholes in order to conceal the unhealthy nature of their product.

Deciphering Food Labels

Unfortunately, most food labels typically don’t mean much. Terms such as “pure” that are commonly found in fruit juices don’t mean that you are solely drinking juice—rather, the juices can be fixed up with flavor packets for better aroma and taste. So, let’s talk about the different claims that food packaging makes—and what is actually going on!

1. Vitamin and Mineral Claims

If you’re trying to be healthy, you may find yourself buying products that are fortified. This means that the products are marketed as having high vitamin or mineral content and thus are a great option for maintaining your health. Certainly it seems that having additional vitamins and minerals in your foods can’t be terrible—however, the issue is that these extra nutrients appearing in your foods are synthetic vitamins. These synthetic vitamins aren’t particularly beneficial for your health and can actually create system imbalances in your body if consumed over long periods of time. So, even though it might seem like a positive addition, it definitely isn’t worth it. It’s best to eat high-quality foods and whole food based supplements.

2. The All Natural Claim

So, so many processed foods bear the “all-natural” label—unfortunately, it means essentially nothing. This is because there is no standard definition of what the term “all-natural” is, therefore allowing corporate companies to make up their interpretation. In the processed food categories, an “all-natural” product can be genetically modified, grown with pesticides, made with high-fructose corn syrup, and even additives, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients.

The term “all-natural” is regulated with meat and poultry, however. Products that are labeled “all-natural” in this category may not contain artificial flavors, colors, or chemical preservations.

3. The “Made with Whole Grains” Claim

Although many products may proudly claim that they are made with whole grains, take a closer look at the ingredient list. Many of these products still have unbleached wheat flour as the main ingredient and whole wheat flour much farther down the list. Thus, these products contain a relatively small presence of “whole grains.”

Also, remember that many of these products contain a dough conditioner known as potassium bromate. This is common in commercial bakery products, flours, and some whole grain breads. It has been known to cause thyroid dysfunction.

4. The Low-Fat, Low-Sugar Claim

Even though many products are marketed as being low-fat and low-sugar, they typically contain drastically different nutrients than listed on the label. Food products that claim they contain milk, fruits, or vegetables typically don’t contain “real” ingredients. An example of this is blueberry muffins—instead of being made with actual blueberries, some of these products are made with artificial blueberry-flavored pieces. When a product says it contains milk, it might actually contain non-fat powdered milk, palm oil, sugar, and additives instead of actual “milk.”

So, What Does the FDA Actually Do?

In terms of checking labels, it’s important to understand what the FDA does to regulate the food industry. Although the FDA certainly does check food labels, they only verify that the “Nutrition Facts” panel is present on the packaging—but not if it is accurate. This means that labeling such as “0 trans fats” or “all-natural” is ignored regardless of truth. Because of this, it is estimated that one out of every ten food labels are inaccurate.

What’s The Solution?

Because the FDA is mostly no help in providing consumers with the information that they need to make an educated decision about their food, it is important that you take some time to educate yourself before heading to the grocery store.

The easiest way to ensure that you know what you’re eating is to avoid packaged or processed foods, thus avoiding the issue of deceptive labeling. Try to eat as many whole foods as you can. Prepare your meals at home. Join a local CSA (community-supported agriculture) or start your own garden. Changing your mindset is a big part of changing your diet—choose whole foods like fresh, organic produce, organic meat, and organic eggs.

Selecting locally-grown, organic foods can be a bit challenging, but here’s what you need to know—the only organic label out there that means anything is the USDA Certified Organic label. This is the best assurance of organic food quality available right 

now. Farmers that have been certified to put this label on their food have to meet very strict standards in order to achieve the certification.

Simply put, if you want to eat healthy, it is very important to be an educated consumer. Take some more time to read some articles about safely grown food. Be a bit wary of claims on products in the grocery store. Try your best to eat organic whole foods whenever possible and cook your own meals. Stay healthy!

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Benefits of Organic Eggs

Benefits of Organic Eggs

The benefits of organic eggs may be worth the extra cost. They come from chickens that were given 100 percent organic feed, free of any agricultural chemical residues. The chickens are also treated humanely, with access to outdoor space to roam. In addition, the eggs themselves contain essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals needed to keep you healthy.

Benefits of Organic

For eggs to be labeled as organic, they must meet requirements drawn up and enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The feed given to the chickens cannot come from crops that are genetically modified, treated with pesticides or herbicides, or fertilized with chemical or synthetic products. The chickens also cannot be treated with hormones, antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that some of the pesticides used in food production may cause cancer, skin irritations, nervous system disruption or hormonal imbalance in humans. Organic eggs are free from any of these potentially harmful chemical residues.

Fat Content

Organic eggs come from chickens that must have access to the outdoors year-round. This means the hens get exercise and have an opportunity to eat grasses, other plants and insects in addition their feed, which may improve the nutritional quality of the fat found in the eggs. According to Susan Allport, author of "The Queen of Fats," eggs from chickens that are free-range and eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty-acids -- from sources such as grasses and weeds -- lay eggs that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than chickens that are only grain-fed. Omega-3s play a critical role in brain function and growth, reduce inflammation and may prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. An independent study conducted by "Mother Earth News" confirms that free-ranging chickens lay eggs with two times the omega-3s, one-third of the cholesterol and one-fourth of the saturated fat as conventional eggs.

More Vitamins than Conventional Eggs

According to the 2007 egg-testing project conducted by "Mother Earth News," eggs from free-range chickens contain two-thirds more vitamin A, seven times more beta-carotene and three times more vitamin E than conventional eggs. These differences likely come the diet of organic hens that free-range. Getting more vitamin A from organic eggs helps maintain your immune system and healthy skin, hair and eyes. Beta-carotene, which accounts for the dark orange color of organic egg yolks, is a precursor to vitamin A in your body. It also functions as an antioxidant, helping to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that helps to maintain healthy red blood cells, nerve function and cell membranes.

Other Benefits of Eggs

All eggs, whether organic or not, are a good source of protein, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, phosphorus and selenium. From one large egg you'll get 6 grams of dietary protein. Your skin, muscles, glands and other organs require protein to remain healthy. Growth and repair of cells also relies on amino acids found in protein. Iron is essential for proper red cell production, oxygen transport and preventing anemia. The B vitamins riboflavin and B-12 aid in DNA synthesis, metabolism and maintenance of healthy red blood cells, eyes, skin, hair and nails. The mineral phosphorus is needed to maintain strong bones and teeth, while selenium is an antioxidant in the body that works with vitamin E.